Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action
Delivery of information technology (IT) projects must be set in the context of delivering wider business change.
In the past, the introduction of IT systems has been seen as an end in itself instead of being part of a wider process to meet departments’ and agencies’ overall business objectives.
Business development skills need to be strengthened to support the management of business change projects and to enable informed business decisions to be made both before initiation of a project and throughout its life.
Effective management of business change requires the production and maintenance of a business case for the total change, not just for the introduction of a new IT system.
Best practice standards and guidance will be provided from the Centre, to achieve greater consistency across Government in the application of this approach.
Leadership and Responsibility
Effective business change programmes and projects require clear, active and visible leadership from the top.
In the past, some change programmes and projects have suffered from a lack of active ownership.
Overall responsibility for delivering the business objectives and benefits of any programme or project must be vested in a single, responsible and visible individual, the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO).
The practice of having SROs for projects and programmes must be embedded across Government through the use of appraisal and reward systems.
The Centre needs to provide and maintain information-sharing mechanisms and practical guidance for SROs on the nature of the role and the specific tasks involved.
Skill in policy or operational roles is no assurance of the ability to manage a project. Failure to recognise the need for specific skills results in ineffective project management and has been a contributing factor in the failure of a number of projects.
To improve Government’s performance, we need mechanisms to harness and build on the limited experience available. One such mechanism will be the wider adoption of formal project management methodologies.
Key staff on major projects should undertake appropriate project management training and mentoring should be made available to project managers across Government.
Departments and agencies must assess the difficulty of their projects and match this against the abilities of their project managers. Where necessary, these abilities should be supplemented by managers from elsewhere in the public sector or from the private sector.
An appreciation of business risk management at all levels in an organisation will help to ensure that the impact of a project is fully understood and monitored throughout its life.
The process of risk analysis and management is covered in existing guidelines but the extent to which these are followed varies considerably.
To ensure risk management is effective, procedures designed to improve reporting and the upward referral of problems are needed.
More effective risk management will enable departments and agencies to undertake the increasingly complex and cross-cutting projects that are demanded by the Modernising Government agenda.
Modular and Incremental Development
Large, ambitious projects carry a high risk of failing to meet some, or all, of their goals.
Governments in the UK and abroad and the private sector have recognised that an effective way o reduce risk is to break large projects into smaller, more manageable components.
We have produced some preliminary guidelines on modular and incremental approaches to IT delivery for departments and agencies to consider when taking on large projects.
Departments and agencies must consider the subject explicitly and must document their chosen approach before initiating large projects.
Projects and programmes can only be regarded as successful if the intended benefits are realised.
There have been weaknesses in the systems used for ensuring that benefits are tracked and ultimately delivered.
Departments and agencies must include formal processes to determine the benefits of projects and review the progress towards their realisation.
The Centre needs to collect and maintain information on the type of benefits realised from specific projects and programmes and share this information across Government.
Procurement and Supplier Relationships
Increased dependence on IT to help deliver business objectives raises the importance of effective IT procurement.
Clearer articulation of Government IT procurement policy will improve relations between the Government and its suppliers and improve the success rate of projects.
Mechanisms that encourage more mature co-operation between client and supplier can have a significant impact on project success.
Scrutiny of supplier plans throughout the procurement process is important in ensuring that objectives are delivered. There are key actions that must be taken by suppliers to help improve performance.
Actively managing market intelligence across Government can help improve procurement decisions.
People and Skills
The Modernising Government agenda places a huge demand on departments, agencies and IT suppliers to expand the skills they will need to deliver successful business change.
Government needs to enhance its skills in the procurement and management of IT at a time when global demand for these skills is escalating and widespread skill shortages are being predicted.
All departments and agencies will need to retain some core skills and must consider early development and recruitment in key areas.
Government needs to get better at identifying and measuring these core skills and provide rapid ways of developing and acquiring what is missing.
The Centre also needs to act now to help departments and agencies prepare to meet the demands of the e-government Strategy.
Improving performance means learning the lessons from experiences, both good and bad.
In the past, change programmes and projects have been carried out without an awareness of what was happening, or had already happened, elsewhere.
A system of peer review will spread knowledge and ensure that new initiatives have the benefit of experience as they go ahead.
New mechanisms are needed to ensure that best practice and good advice are readily available and easy to use.
Implementation of the recommendations set out in this report will be vital to the achievement of Information Age Government.
Implementation of these recommendations will be owned by the e-envoy who will make an interim report to the e-government Minister in December 2000 on progress and further reports on an ongoing basis.
Permanent Secretaries will be responsible for driving and monitoring progress in implementing these recommendations in their departments and agencies; reporting on progress to the e-envoy.
The Centre will have an important role in implementing the recommendations made in this report. This role must be understood by, and promoted to, government departments and agencies and industry.